Work has begun revamping the world-famous Harland & Wolff yard in Belfast so it can build three new support ships for the Navy.
The existing fabrication halls at the shipbuilders are being significantly enhanced to support construction of the successors to RFA Fort Victoria.
Three Fleet Solid Support vessels are being ordered to replace the venerable ‘one-stop-shop’ which provides ammunition, food, dry stores and spare parts to Royal Navy warships.
The new ships will be an integral part of a carrier strike group. At 40,000 tonnes and 216 meters long they will be second only to HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales in length and displacement, more than 34 meters wide, with a capacity for 9,000 square meters of stores (that’s almost the size of a football pitch).
The trio – as yet unnamed – are being constructed by the Team Resolute consortium (comprising Navantia UK, Harland and Wolff and BMT) which was selected back in January by the MOD.
The final assembly of all three ships will be completed at Harland & Wolff, famous for building the Titanic and her sisters and, more during WW2 and afterwards, a host of RN vessels from Flower-class corvettes through to carrier HMS Eagle.
Blocks and modules for each vessel will be constructed in Belfast, plus Appledore in Devon, and Navantia’s yard in Cadiz, Spain.
Winning the contract unlocked £77m of investment in Harland & Wolff in preparation for constructing the three ships, notably upgrading to the very latest equipment and technologies and expanding the facilities by 5,000 square metres – enhancements which will serve the yard, long after the Solid Support ships have sailed.
Leader of the House of Commons and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt symbolically got work under way on the expanded facilities by cutting the first turf.
At the peak of construction work, Harland & Wolff alone are expected to employ 1,200 personnel across various sites, with an expected additional 800 people involved in the UK supply chain.